WOMEN’S HEALTH: Protecting Your Eyes as You Age

wh-6.jpgApril is Women’s Eye Health Month! The menopausal woman is at a higher risk for developing ‘dry eye’ syndrome. Omega 3 essential fatty acids and other supplements can help prevent this condition.

‘Dry eye’ syndrome is when your eyes chronically fail to make enough tears to keep them adequately lubricated, or when the tears made are of the wrong chemical composition to do the job. Such a condition, while not life-threatening, can be an irritation to a woman’s health.

Symptoms include:

  • Burning or itching, or a ‘gritty’ feeling on the eyes
  • Excessive wateriness
  • Excessive dryness
  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Difficulty reading, blurred vision, or eyes that grow increasingly ‘tired’ during the course of the day
  • Increased sensitivity to smoke, wind or air movement.

The eye has three layers of tear secretion. Closest to the eyeball is a thin layer of mucus. The middle is a salt-and-water layer that keeps the eye moist and clean. Above this is an oily layer that keeps the middle layer from evaporating.

Chronic dry eyes can occur as a side effect of many medications, from living in a dry environment, or from long-term contact use. This condition can also onset or become more severe around menopause.

Eye drops can address bloodshot and other ‘symptoms,’ but don’t actually handle the underlying cause, which is the body’s failure to produce the right mix of teary mucus, water and oil. This, in turn, is often caused by insufficient oil production by the meibomian gland in the eyelids. There is evidence linking the meibomian gland production with changes in hormone levels, which is why dry eye syndrome often affects women at menopause. This is especially prevalent in women with poor nutrition.

A vitamin A deficiency can contribute to dry eyes, and is easily remedied by supplements. Omega 3 fatty acids are the ‘good’ fats that help to protect cell membranes, and regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can also help. Flaxseed oil, which contains a high amount of omega 3 essential fatty acids, can also be an effective aid in protecting women’s general health as well as vision.

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